Dead Island 2 Review
So this is certainly an interesting one. Dead Island 2 has been a highly anticipated title since its reveal back in 2014. The game has been put through developmental hell, from being shuffled through multiple studios including Yager Development and Sumo Digital. It was first announced in 2012, and was touted to be one of the biggest survivor-horror based action-RPG’s of the last generation, before it began to fizzle and fall victim of being labelled vapourware – the same fate Duke Nukem Forever suffered throughout its elongated development. Now as fate would seem, the title itself does indicate age in its overall bearings given its repetitive projection reboot, but this of course coming at the cost of hitting reset on Dead Island 2’s fundamentals. It was heavily implied that Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul and The Super Mario Bros. Movie’s Jack Black, would both feature in the game, but after years of the title’s existence in question, Dead Island 2’s hype withered quick.
But here we are, it’s 2023 and nine years after an initial teaser at E3 2014, we finally have Dead Island 2 in our meaty claws, but to say that it’s been worth the wait would be an overstatement. Rather, that time makes the heart grow fonder would be an apt description to the franchise. But there’s nothing wrong with a little more time to polish a game, but Dead Island 2 has had more than its fair share of developmental hacky sack to bust out a credible zombie-horror for those that adore the original. So let’s call it how it is, Dead Island 2 is for its fanbase; A designated portion of horror gamers that love to satiate their bloodlust with mindless fun and terrible dialogue. That’s the crux of the original Dead Island, and British-based developer Dambuser Studios, have promulgated a perversely violent sequel to the original, that definitely mirrors its content, but in some aspect its aged qualities.
Welcome to Hell-A...
Dead Island 2’s campaign takes place fifteen years after the prequel – almost as long as its development cycle – where the United States has cornered Los Angeles into a quarantine where another zombie outbreak has occurred with a suspected variant of its virus, that has been deemed stronger than the last. The military begin evacuating patrons unaffected by the outbreak. An unfortunate leak lands an infected on one of the flights which holds another six individuals that are also bitten in the process but are found to be immune to the zombie virus. These six become our protagonists throughout Dead Island 2’s campaign; Carla, a badass mechanic, Bruno the mouthpiece with an eccentric and overly confident personality, Dani a retail worker, Ryan the faux-firefighter that turns out to be a stripper, Jacob a daredevil stuntman by profession, and Amy, a well trained athelete.
Despite being suspect to the infection, the team show no signs of turning and are housed by a fellow survivor of the outbreak. While sheltered at Actress Emma Jaunt’s condo, the group come to the realisation that they are indeed immune to the outbreak after Emma’s boyfriend Sam informs her of being unaffected by the zombie virus himself. The plan then becomes for the group to leave Los Angeles, with the safest evacuation point being placed at Halperin Hotel. As the group safely arrive, they find the halls infested and overrun by the infected. Fending off more than they could chew – get it? ’cause it’s a zombie game – The group make contact via radio with Dr. Reuben Reed, who instructs The Slayers to make their way to Santa Monica, where he may be able to study their immunity and ultimately manufacture a cure.
Now while I would say that Dead Island 2’s improvements are the highlight of its experience, its general gameplay loop remains familiar to the original, almost to its detriment in some cases. While roaming around the crimson soaked streets and blood stained buildings that surround the City of Angels, you will find yourself coming face-to-face with a multitude of variants that indeed hold different attributes from one another. The mutant menaces run amok causing chaos, whether they be a standard ‘Walker’, the easiest to take on with any disposable object, a ‘Shambler’, a step-up from the walker where they may have been dead longer but are slower in their attack but stronger. The ‘Runner’ are freshly turned variants of the apocalypse, still having healthy vitals within them but are beyond saving. Then there are mammoth mutants that have somehow mutated beyond the expected cycle of an infected such as a Butcher, Screamer, Crusher or Suicider.
Now while there are a slew of mixed weaponry at your disposal, upgrades can be made while you’re hacking your way through Hell-A, such as strapping a lightning rod to a Tonfa, to deliver a shocking blow and some extra damage while you’re at it. However, the upgrades made to base weaponry gives so little to an effect toward your offense that I decided it wasn’t worth my time, and stuck with most stock items I could rummage throughout the campaign. While lengthy, the forty hour campaign begins strong, allowing you to choose which character to portray, while the five remaining slayers will aid you on your journey out of Los Angeles. But it’s about the action itself that becomes monotonous quick. The glitz and glamour of some realism does strike you with some shocks, but after an hour or two, it’s all relative to the experience and the gameplay loop itself becomes a button mashing frenzy.
✔️ A brainless barrage of mindless bloodlust lifts DI2’s comeback, with great thrills and spills of joyous fun.
✔️ Multiplayer breaks the monotony of the campaign with tremendous laughs to be had.
✔️ Don’t take it seriously.
❌ Can be repetitious with gameplay loop becoming monotonous midway.
While partaking in mission objective to give each chapter of Dead Island 2 merit or meaning, the effect comes of repetitive nonetheless. Collect an object, smack a bunch of zombies with it, dropkick them off a ledge, set them ablaze with a Molotov cocktail, or simply avoid most walkers without any worry. A cumbersome tone tends to set in as the campaign unfolds with most of its core fundamentals playing part of the original Dead Island, almost to the point where the game may have been developed in stasis of early last gen.
There have been a myriad of zombie survival-horror games that have preceded the simple hack-and-slash formula, but in Dead Island’s vain, also adopted many of its successes but capitalise on. I feel as Dead Island 2 while possessing some form of improvements, its collision physics and quality of life feels dated. Sure it’s fun to blast through a hoard of re-animated corpses or lively infected with a sawn off shogun, or slice and dice some brain meat with a machete, but all this becomes a looping act on repeat after a while. While a distinct appreciation is placed in Dead Island 2’s aesthetic value, its imperative features such as gameplay or writing suffer.
There are some chuckles to be had, but in the long run a mostly forgettable story and unlikable rag-tag group of slayers are left in the dust of this follow-up. Now all isn’t as bad as it seems, as Dead Island 2 harnesses a bloody good time in its multiplayer setting. Pairing with a friend or a random group you can take on waves of the undead for more mindless hilarity than any progression or experience levelling. It’s just a flat out good time without any mandated tasks to fulfil, rather some light objective to keep your group on their toes. But the first person perspective of being taking to the woodshed by a hungry braindead runner to be suddenly dropkicked by a teammate will have you laughing hysterically. The ease of switching up your loadout or equipped items is contained in the all-too familiar weapon wheel, giving the player a streamlined tool to access their inventory without any hassle.
Fury Mode is built-up over time, and activated by pressing down on your respective analogue sticks (in this case as I reviewed the title on PS5, the L3+R3 sticks). This enables your character to go completely insane, satiate a mindless bloodlust and begin tearing zombies limb from limb with their bare hands. There are drawbacks from using the mode, such as weapon drops and a limited amount of time to utilise the feature, but it’s so much fun to become the weapon yourself. The feature is unlocked during the Red Mist quest, where you will be pitted against waves of zombies in an arena style battle, where you must survive each hoard to unlock the raging attribute. Performing impressive manoeuvres or counter tactics will charge your Fury gauge faster, for quick and efficient use throughout the campaign. However, if a zombie successfully attacks you while in Fury Mode, your gauge will deplete a lot quicker.
Caked in brain-matter, coinciding with its barrage of a bloody good time, Dead Island 2’s quirks are what make it an insanely fun campaign to dive deep in. Without taking it too seriously, it’s a hell-a great comeback for the franchise itself and can be appreciated by a wide variety of horror fans without the need to digest a litany of dialogue or information. It takes an old school formula of violence, places it in a prominent setting and modernises some aspects including some great aesthetics that visually pleasing to one’s devious side. Dead Island 2’s drawbacks can also be its charm in some ways, and I can appreciate it for what it is. A nonsensical, sensational, crimson-riddled cheesy horror-flick that’s here to deliver a fun time. Whether that’s for a long time is up for debate.
Dead Island 2 Review
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Dead Island 2 is a 2023 action role-playing game developed by Dambuster Studios and published by Deep Silver. It is a sequel to the 2011 video game Dead Island and the third major installment in the Dead Island series.